Crunch Continue to Struggle at Home, Fall to Amerks

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Pierre-Cedric Labrie recalled looking at the scoreboard with 14 minutes remaining.

With the Syracuse Crunch trailing 3-2, the forward saw 23 listed as his team's shots on goal. Twelve minutes later -- and the Crunch now trailing by three to the Rochester Americans -- the number had only changed by one.

"We can't win the game (like that) if we're losing by two or three," Labrie said. "If you don't shoot, you don't score."

Syracuse's 5-2 loss at the Onondaga County War Memorial Saturday snapped a three-game winning streak overall, and was the third straight loss on home ice.

For most of the Crunch players who called Norfolk home last year, getting accustomed to the smaller ice surface in Syracuse means having to simplify their game - more shots on net, more traffic in front and being more careful with the puck.

"There's no excuse, but the ice is smaller," Labrie said. "A small mistake is bigger here because it's quicker…A little turnover is a big mistake."

Crunch forward Cory Conacher echoed Labrie's sentiments.

"I feel bad for the fans because we're struggling at home right now," he said. "Home is supposed to be a place where you win the games, and we have work to do."

Conacher tied the game less than four minutes into the third period, swatting the puck in after it had bounced off one of the Rochester defensemen. Ondrej Palat and Jared Nightingale were credited with the assists.

"It was just a good bounce, a lucky bounce," Conacher said.

Any momentum was quickly dashed less than three minutes later when the Americans' Marcus Foligno tallied his sixth goal of the season. Rochester's TJ Brennan provided an insurance goal from the point midway through the third and Brian Flynn iced the win with a goal with under two minutes to play.

"We're usually a team that can bounce back from things like that," Conacher said. "Maybe the puck wasn't bouncing our way at the end of the game, but at the same time we have to get traffic to the front of the net and get shots on net."

The only other Crunch goal tied the game at one midway through the second period. Richard Panik found the back of the net on a Philip-Michael Devos feed with the man-advantage. Alex Killorn also registered an assist on the play.

The Crunch went 1-for-5 on the power play, and held the Americans to 0-for-3.

Syracuse netminder Riku Helenius played steady through the first two periods, allowing a pair of goals on tips by Nick Tarnasky and Evan Rankin. He finished with 19 saves, while Rochester goalie David Leggio turned away 24 shots at the other end of the ice.

"I feel bad for Riku, because he's done so much for us this year," Conacher said. "He's an outstanding goalie, and we, myself included, made a couple bad mistakes in the D zone that cost us a goal or two."

Despite Syracuse (7-2-1-1) maintaining a four-point lead in the East Division over Norfolk, Binghamton and Wilkes-Barre Scranton, an obviously disappointed Conacher summed up the night from a frustrated Crunch lockerroom.

"We stunk tonight and we've got to play a differently in our rink," he said.

The Crunch has a week to get more acclimated with the War Memorial ice before hosting the Hershey Bears Friday.

"We're going to have to apply the system, and follow it and be on the same page," Labrie said. "That's why we're going to work on it tomorrow and make sure it doesn't happen again and stop disappointing the fans."